- - Sunday, August 1, 2010

GREECE

Truckers suspend strike, talk with government

ATHENS | Greek truckers announced Sunday they were ending their seven-day strike and entering into talks with the government over opening up their profession to nonunion members.

The strike seriously disrupted supplies of fuel and other goods to markets, but the government’s decision on Friday to commandeer the strikers’ vehicles has largely filled gasoline pumps again, even though many truckers refused to obey the mobilization orders. Army vehicles have helped supply fuel to airports, hospitals and power stations.

The head of the truckers union said members will resume work Monday but warned of further strikes if the government “backs down from their commitments,” without specifying what those are.

RUSSIA

Patriarch prays for rain as wildfires rage

MOSCOW | Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill asked Russians to pray for rain on Sunday as wildfires raged across the European parts of the vast country, sweltering since June in an unprecedented heat wave.

The hottest weather since records began 130 years ago has withered crops and pushed thousands of farmers to the verge of bankruptcy.

“Grief has come to our nation, human lives have been lost, hundreds have lost shelter and thousands have been left without sustenance, including many children,” national media quoted Patriarch Kirill as saying in a prayer during a visit to the Nizhny Novgorod region, one of the worst hit by fires.

“I call upon everyone to unite in a prayer for rain to descend on our earth.”

At least 28 people have died in wildfires in European Russia in the past few days, the Emergencies Ministry said, adding that by Sunday morning a total of 774 fires had been registered, including 369 ones that occurred since Saturday.

More than 5,200 people have been evacuated from disaster-stricken regions, it said.

FRANCE

Authorities widen crackdown on foreigners

PARIS | France’s interior minister proposed Sunday to strip French nationality from foreign-born residents for human trafficking and female genital mutilation, widening controversial proposals to fight crime.

Brice Hortefeux’s comments published in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper added to a list of offenses cited by President Nicolas Sarkozy in the latest measures of his so-called “war on crime” targeting foreign minorities.

The leader of the main opposition Socialist Party, Martine Aubry, on Sunday accused Mr. Hortefeux and Mr. Sarkozy of an approach “that harms France and its values by selective laws that are as iniquitous as they are unconstitutional.”

Mr. Hortefeux, who already had threatened to strip a Muslim man of his French nationality for polygamy, said “loss of nationality must be allowed … also in cases of female circumcision, human-trafficking or acts of serious delinquency.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Hortefeux also threatened to expel foreign Roma minorities who commit crimes and to tear down hundreds of illegal Roma camps.

BRITAIN

Government tells banks to kick-start lending

LONDON | British banks must use first-half profits to boost lending to businesses, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said in an interview on Sunday, ahead of key results for the nation’s top lenders.

As major banks prepare to reveal that they bounced back in the black during the first six months of 2010, they must get credit flowing, Mr. Osborne told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

“We have got to be pretty clear with the banks … that we will not tolerate banks piling the pressure on small- and medium-sized businesses,” the finance minister said.

“They have an economic obligation to assist that sector and give it all the assistance that they got.”

RUSSIA

Investigator killed in North Caucusus

MAKHACHKALA | Three militants broke into the home of a senior police investigator in Russia’s restive North Caucasus region on Sunday and fatally shot him after binding his wife and son with tape in the next room, police said.

The attackers shot police Lt. Col. Yunus Khulatayev three times at point-blank range in his apartment in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, and then fled, police said.

The attack was believed to be connected to the officer’s work, police spokesman Vyacheslav Gasanov said.

Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim republic in southern Russia, sees almost daily violence, with many of the militants inspired by or affiliated with Islamist separatists in neighboring Chechnya.

Some attacks also are believed to be motivated by a desire for revenge against police, accused of using heavy-handed tactics in their efforts to crack down on Islamic extremism.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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